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Health Surveillance is one of the best ways for employers to monitor the wellbeing of their workforce and to ensure that the work they carry out is not having an ill effect on their health. By monitoring the developments of any injuries or illnesses, employers have the chance to act before issues arise, and if needs be to ensure that their workers see a health professional before any complaints or injuries become unmanageable.

Health surveillance is particularly useful when it comes to managing the risks of vibration. Vibration can damage the muscles and tissues of the hands and arms and can cause a range of injuries and illnesses commonly called Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome.

This can take the form of pain, numbness or tingling in the fingers, particularly after working in the cold or spending time working with vibrating tools. In some cases the blood circulation to the fingers can be affected and the result is fingers that turn very pale, or white; known as Vibration White Finger. Often these fingers go red as the blood supply returns, along with a throbbing pain and a reduction in dexterity.

After symptoms first appear, generally the longer an employee is exposed to vibration, the worse the symptoms become, although the rate of deterioration will vary from person to person. How much symptoms may improve when people are no longer exposed to vibration is not well understood, but it is thought that nerve damage does not recover after exposure stops. The effects on blood circulation may improve after reducing or stopping vibration exposure in people below about 45 years old and when the disease has not yet reached the advanced stage associated with disability.

How does it work?

In most cases health surveillance can be put into a five-tier system:

  1. A questionnaire for new employees moving into a job that is likely to involve the use of vibrating equipment to establish if they have any existing issues.
  2. A questionnaire given to existing employees who use vibrating equipment to identify if they need to be referred for a health assessment.
  3. A health assessment from a qualified person such as an occupational health nurse to establish if any signs of hand arm vibration syndrome are present.
  4. A formal diagnosis by a doctor qualified in occupational health.
  5. A doctor’s assessment as to whether the employee is fit to continue working.

By carrying out this kind of surveillance on a regular basis any issues can swiftly be brought to the attention of a professional who can decide on the best course of action for each employee: in some cases a change of role might be necessary, in others increasing the breaks between activities can be enough to stem the issues.

Have you been injured through vibration in your workplace?
If you or someone you care for has been injured as a result of vibration in their work, you could well be entitled to make a claim for compensation. Contact us today, free of charge and with no obligation, and let us see how we can help you get the payout you deserve.